What Do Toads Eat

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Toads are a sub-species of frogs that have dry and bumpy skin rather than wet and smooth skin. Toads are more likely to live on the ground and are an excellent addition to your garden’s ecosystem as they will eat most of your typical garden pests. But what exactly do toads eat?

© Photo by Byron Burns on Unsplash

When it comes to toads, they are strictly carnivores and will eat just about anything that moves. The typical wild toad’s diet might include any of the following:

  • Flies
  • Spiders
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Wax Worms
  • Super Worms
  • Grubs
  • Locusts
  • Other Smaller Toads And Frogs

When you have a pet toad, you can feed them any of the potential prey above. However, most of the time, you will be giving them store-bought insects or worms. The typical diet of a pet toad includes the following:

  • Crickets
  • Wax Worms
  • Super Worms
  • Earthworms
  • Fruit Flies
  • Ants
  • Mealworms

If you own a larger species of toad, you can also feed them mice, small rats, and other small rodents when they are fully grown adults.

As you continue to read this article, we will go in-depth about the variety of different foods a toad will eat throughout its entire life. Furthermore, we will give a short guide on how you should care for and feed your pet toads. 

What Do Toads Eat?

Toads in the wild are exclusively carnivores and will eat anything they can get their tongue on. They mainly feed on various insects, but larger toad species will sometimes go after small reptiles, rodents, and even other amphibians. Toads prefer to eat live prey and will typically leave dead prey alone completely. 

Toads across the world adapt to target different foods. For instance, toads native to Australia will target and eat a completely different diet than toads native to North America. Some toads are even known to be cannibalistic and will target smaller toads. Cane toads are an invasive species in Australia and are a perfect example of cannibalistic toads. There is even documentation of mother cane toads eating her own newly hatched tadpoles looking for a quick and easy snack.

What Do Tadpoles Eat?

Toads will target and eat different foods throughout their lives. Starting as tadpoles, they will begin eating the yolk that they are born in and hatch from. Finally, they will hatch from their eggs and begin life in the water once they grow large enough. At this stage of a toad’s life, they are completely aquatic creatures and breathe oxygen from the water through gills on their heads. 

Once tadpoles are free from the confines of their eggs, they face a harsh world filled with a vast array of potential predators, including other frogs and toads. Due to their tiny stature, tadpoles are the only stage where a toad will go out of its way to eat plant matter. 

A tadpole’s main diet includes algae, moss, and decayed plant matter. However, a tadpole is not exclusively restricted to plant matter to sustain itself. For example, tadpoles can target and eat Gerridae (a.k.a. Water striders), which are tiny bugs that can glide across the water’s surface. Furthermore, tadpoles can also eat bug larvae that start their life in the same pond as the tadpoles. 

Tadpoles can also eat the detritus located on the water’s floor. Detritus is material composed of dead particulates made from a variety of dead plants, animals, and insects that sink to the bottom of the water. 

As a tadpole begins to grow, it will eventually sprout legs. First, their back legs will begin to grow, followed by their front legs. While their legs are growing, their tail will slowly be absorbed into their body as nourishment. While a tadpole grows its legs and absorbs its tail, its lungs are also growing and developing. During this time, their tail will provide nearly all of the nourishment they need, and the tadpole will rarely eat or won’t eat at all. 

Once this process is complete, a lucky tadpole will move on to its next stage in life as a juvenile toad.

What Do Juvenile Toads Eat?

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After a tadpole has survived long enough to grow its legs and lungs, it will be considered a juvenile toad and hop onto land for the first time. This is when a toad begins its new life as a terrestrial animal and a true amphibian. Once a toad has reached this stage in life, it will become a full-on carnivore and start using its tongue to stick to potential prey. 

A juvenile toad will begin to hunt prey similar to what an adult toad will hunt. However, at the juvenile stage, a toad will need to hunt smaller prey while also needing to eat less often. 

A juvenile toad will hunt and eat small insects like flies, ants, mosquitos, and worms when it gets the chance. However, as a toad continues to grow, they will be able to hunt larger and potentially more dangerous prey.

Here is a short list to give examples of what a toad will most likely eat at this stage in its life. 

  • Flies
  • Ants
  • Mosquitoes
  • Small Moths
  • Small Crickets
  • Fruit Flies
  • Small Grasshoppers
  • Small Worms

At the juvenile stage in a toad’s life, they might get a little too greedy. If a juvenile toad’s eyes are too big for its stomach, it might go after prey that is too large for them to eat. Toads, like most amphibians, eat their prey whole, which can lead to some complications. If a toad goes after prey that is too big for them, they can find themselves in a dangerous situation where they can choke on the food they are trying to swallow and eventually die from asphyxiation. The prey the toad has chosen for a potential meal can also be large enough to defend itself and harm the toad.

Depending on the species, a typical toad will reach maturity after as little as 8 months up to 3 years after touching land for the first time. 

What Do Adult Toads Eat?

As a juvenile toad survives and grows larger, so does their appetite. As a result, adult frogs are much stronger and have larger mouths than they did when they were fresh out of the pond—making them able to hunt larger prey while also needing to eat more often. 

Juvenile and adult toads are considered ambush predators and will sit in one place patiently waiting for something to walk past them in their line of sight. They will shoot out their tongue at a blinding speed to snatch up their prey when this happens. 

The length of a toad’s tongue can vary depending on the species. However, most toad tongues can reach up to twice their body length or further. Furthermore, a toad’s tongue is extremely soft. In fact, it is ten times softer than a human’s tongue. 

While most people think the toad’s tongue is sticky, this is not the case. Toads and frogs use their soft tongues coupled with their saliva to stick to their prey. Because of the extremely soft tongue, it is able to cover more area when it slaps into its target. 

Furthermore, the saliva of toads and frogs is a non-newtonian fluid, which means it does not follow the natural laws of fluids. Unlike other liquids like water or human saliva, toad and frog saliva can change their thickness under pressure. So when the saliva-covered super-soft tongue slams into the toad’s prey, it creates the pressure needed to change the saliva’s viscosity and stick to the prey. This allows the frog to pull its target into its mouth in order to feed.

Here is a list of prey that an adult toad will use its tongue to snatch up:

  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Spiders
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Grubs
  • Worms

Larger species of toads are able to snatch up larger prey quickly. Cane toads are the largest known toad species in the world. Cane toads are also known to eat literally anything they can get their mouth and tongue on. Cane toads and other toad species have been seen eating:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Smaller Toads
  • Smaller Frogs
  • Small Birds
  • Snakes

What Should I Feed My Pet Toads?

© Photo by Gary Ellis on Unsplash

Pet toads can eat everything we have discussed above if you can get your hands on it. However, it is much easier to purchase feeder bugs and worms from your local pet store or local feeder breeders. 

Because it is much easier to obtain feeder prey, pet toads are limited to what you can purchase. The most common food you would feed a pet toad are:

  • Crickets
  • Flies
  • Mealworms
  • Super Worms
  • Waxworms
  • Earthworms
  • Feeder Fish
  • Dubia Roaches

The most accessible feeders you can get your hands on are crickets and Dubia roaches. Most pet stores will cultivate their own crickets, while only some will also have Dubia roaches. While Dubia roaches are packed with protein and nutrients and are considered to be super feeder insects, crickets bred in captivity are not. For that reason, if you are feeding your toad, frogs, or other reptiles and amphibians crickets, it is advised that you “load” them before feeding. 

“Loading” crickets is super simple. All you will need are the crickets themselves and calcium and vitamin supplement powder. Dusting the crickets is vital when feeding them to your reptiles and amphibians due to the lack of nutrients they contain. 

To do this, you can place some feeder crickets in a separate container and dust the top of them with the powder, or you can put them and the powder in a container and LIGHTLY shake it to cover the crickets completely. Shaking the container too hard can kill the crickets, making your toads not want to eat them. 

Final Thoughts

Toads eat a variety of foods throughout their life. Starting off as tadpoles, they mainly eat plant matter, but they can also eat tiny bugs and bug larvae, making them omnivores. However, as soon as the tadpole comes of age and grows its legs and lungs, they will hop onto land a completely different animal. At this stage, the toad becomes a carnivore and exclusively hunts prey to sustain itself.

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